Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ted Kaczynski: The Unabomber

Montana Hermit

The planning and execution of the arrest had been a meticulously planned — and painstakingly slow operation.

The most delicate aspect involved the stakeout. If the task force officers could watch Ted Kaczynski, they'd be able to apprehend any parcel he might attempt to mail or transport before it reached a potential target. So their approach was simply to blend in with people who might visit the area. That way, they hoped to surreptitiously get information on the man known simply as 'The Hermit' to the people of Lincoln, Montana.

In going unnoticed, they had a patchy success.

In his book Unabomber: A Desire To Kill, Robert Graysmith cites the growing numbers of FBI that infiltrated the town — "mountain men who were too tidy, postal workers far off their routes... tourists out of season, lumberjacks and prospectors..." He tells how locals noticed the cars pulling snowmobiles were too shiny and new. "We instantly knew something was up" one told Graysmith.

Kaczynski's insular personality worked against him — there were no neighbors to inadvertently warn him of the strange goings on. Gradually, lookout posts were established, sharpshooters put in place and surveillance gear electronically monitored the area. In the sky, satellite systems meticulously charted the area to provide the cops with detailed maps. Kaczynski was literally surrounded. It's interesting to note that the technology the Unabomber despised worked against him — to great effect.

The cabin in which Ted Kaczynski lived (AP)
The cabin in which Ted Kaczynski

Initially, the FBI had hoped to wait for Kaczynski to go to town for supplies or visit the local library. They were out of luck, and becoming impatient.

Adding to the pressure, CBS was waiting to cover the stakeout — somehow, rumors of a search for the bomber had gotten out. In the end, investigators turned to a local — Butch Ghering — for advice.

Butch told them the hermit was extremely concerned that his property line might impinge on government land. So the FBI enlisted forestry agent Jerry Burns to approach the cabin and lure Kaczynski outside on the pretext of checking the boundaries.

Map in hand, Burns did just that. And when Kaczynski walked out to talk to him, two officers grabbed Kaczynski and the backup team took over.

Handcuffed, the suspect was taken to a nearby cabin, where he was seated and told he had to wait while they went through his cabin. When asked if entering the dwelling posed a danger, Kaczynski gave no definitive answer.

Agent Candice DeLong, one of the agents assigned to watch the suspect during the search, says he was evasive, and told them, "Well, this looks pretty serious, and they say if you're ever in serious trouble, you shouldn't talk without an attorney. So I think I'll wait until I have an attorney."

During the wait, DeLong fed the handcuffed man and held a can of soda to his mouth so he could drink. "...I was showing him far more compassion than he had ever showed for his victims," she noted.

She and Kaczynski talked about anything other than the bomber's criminal activities. Rather, when DeLong asked him about living off the land, he explained how to cook turnips and carrots using limited facilities. Ms. DeLong says, "I felt, as he droned on, as if I were on a bad date." This may be as close an insight as anyone will get into why the man never had a relationship with a woman.

Soon, the search team had found enough evidence to arrest Kaczynski on three murder charges. He was shackled and taken away.

The FBI said they spent twelve days just listing their find of bomb parts and drawings, explosive chemicals and — most telling — detailed reports of the bombings. In all, they confiscated and catalogued over 700 items from the 10-by-12 foot cabin. Investigators said he even had a completed ready-to-mail bomb beneath his bed, as well as one under construction.

Most of Kaczynski's confiscated journals and diaries were written in English and Spanish. Some were even documented in a code — carelessly, the Unabomber kept the key to the cipher near his writings. The typewriter used to type the Manifesto was also recovered, along with rough drafts of the document.

It struck the Unabomb team that finding any resemblance to the widely circulated Unabomber sketch of 1987 would have been impossible. Although, they did find the hooded sweatshirt and sunglasses in the cabin.

The crime site was soon cordoned off, the live bomb detonated and evidence hauled away for further analysis. Later, his entire cabin would be trucked to its final destination — the former Mather Air Force Base near Sacramento, California. There, members of the jury could experience the defendant's smoke encrusted shack first hand.

In spite of the Unabomber's promise to end the terrorism once the Manifesto had been published, the media learned that a hit list of prominent timber executives and academics was found. Initially, authorities denied the list's existence.

Furious over information leaks that could only have come from his organization, FBI Director Freeh issued a stern warning to his employees:

"I ordered an investigation early this month of whether any FBI employees have leaked investigative information from the UNABOM case. The investigation is being conducted by the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility and will seek to uncover all information pertaining to any improper actions by FBI employees. Unauthorized disclosure of investigative information or other confidential material will lead to immediate firing from the FBI and possible prosecution."

Later, it appeared the leaked information about a hit list was accurate. And, on the off chance FC really was a group, potential targets were contacted and warned to be vigilant.

But, as profilers had foreseen, there was no FC — and no further need for added vigilance. The Unabomber was out of business, headed for jail, and destined for his appearance in court.

"He smelled like warm dirt and was so filthy that even his long eyelashes were caked with soot — above the bluest eyes I have ever seen. He was missing a front tooth"
 — ex FBI agent Candice DeLong, on meeting the Unabomber.

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